Self discipline is ultimately a state of the mind. If you want to train yourself to be more disciplined, you have to shift your mindset and see the world in a new light.
This doesn’t mean you need some sort of life defining epiphany. Even subtle changes in the way you think can dramatically increase your behavior and help you spend less time doing things you don’t really want to do and more time accomplishing your goals.
In this article, we’ll cover 8 small but powerful strategies and concepts that will change your mindset on self discipline.
1. Don’t Expect Perfection
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar
Last but not least, don’t expect yourself to perform perfectly every time. If you hold yourself to an unachievable standard of perfection, you’ll only succeed in making yourself feel inadequate.
When you fail, forgive yourself, get up and move forward.
Make it your motto to “Never Miss Twice.” That means that if you miss one workout it’s not the end of the world, but you’re not going to miss two in a row. If you don’t write 500 words this morning, you’re guaranteed to do it tomorrow morning.
Slipping up on your habits doesn’t mean you are a failure – it means you are normal. Successfully improving self-discipline is not based on never making mistakes. It’s all about having the grit and determination to keep persisting and improving over the long term.
2. Trust In a Good Habit
“When a behavior becomes habit, we stop using our decision-making skills and instead function on auto-pilot. Therefore, breaking a bad habit and building a new habit not only requires us to make active decisions, it will feel wrong. Your brain will resist the change in favor of what it has been programmed to do.
The solution? Embrace the wrong. Acknowledge that it will take a while for your new regime to feel right or good or natural. Keep chugging along. It will happen.” – Jennifer Cohen, 5 Proven Methods for Gaining Self Discipline
Jennifer explains it well. Once you set a good habit in motion, you need to trust that it will get you closer to the outcome you desire – even when you feel like quitting.
3. Punch the Clock
You will have good days and bad days, but what matters is that you show up and complete the habit. This is often referred to as “punching the clock.”
If you’ve made a goal to hit the gym every morning before work, there will be some mornings where you feel tired and you won’t have your best workout ever. It’s still incredibly important to follow through and go to the gym on those mornings anyway.
It’s not the occasional amazing workout that makes a big difference in your health, it’s the cumulative effect of many workouts over time. Sticking to the habit over the long term is the most important thing.
4. You Don’t Need Permission From Anyone
If you’re waiting for approval from others – don’t. Building self discipline means that you will need to learn how to find that approval within yourself.
So many of us are holding back on working toward a meaningful goal, because we are worried about what other people will think. Once we let go of this need for approval from others, we are free to follow our goals and work on what is important to us.
5. “You Can’t Improve What You Don’t Measure”
You may have heard this saying before, but it’s really true. Measuring progress is a powerful way to motivate yourself to improve. Clearly tracking the things that are important will help you better understand your performance and how you can improve.
You can measure anything that you want to improve, from minutes spent exercising per week to the number of books read in a year. You can use a an app or a device (such as a Fitbit) or you can simply track your progress in a notebook or a spreadsheet. It doesn’t matter how you measure, it’s the act of measuring that will make the difference.
For example, a budget app can help you track your spending and see where your money is going. Seeing how much you spend on online shopping or late night burritos might encourage you to change your habits. Watching your savings total increase month on month can motivate you to keep going.
6. It’s About the Habit, Not the Outcome
Rather than saying “I want to lose weight” say “I want to walk at least 10,000 steps per day.”
“Losing weight” is something nebulous and difficult to pin down. How are you going to achieve it? How will you know when you are successful?
Walking 10,000 steps per day is something concrete that you can track and measure. If you focus on this habit, the outcome of losing weight and improving fitness will likely come as a result. So, figure out what you want to achieve and think about the habits that would get you there.
7. Nutrition, Sleep and Exercise Are Key
If you are trying to improve your self discipline and you’re not getting enough sleep, healthy food and exercise, you’re fighting an uphill battle.
If you eat nutritious food, get some form of physical exercise every day and get a good sleep, you’ll find it much easier to work towards your goals. You’ll have more energy, an overall positive attitude and you’ll be less likely to give up when the going gets tough.
Like most successful entrepreneurs, Consulting.com founder Sam Ovens is big on making sure nutrition, sleep and exercise are taken care of, as he discusses in this sneak peek from the Consulting.com Quantum Mastermind:
8. Consistent Small Habits
When young comedian Brad Isaac asked Jerry Seinfeld for advice, Seinfeld told him that the best way to improve was to write jokes every day. He advised Isaac to get a large wall calendar and a red magic marker. For every day he writes jokes, he makes a big red X over the day.
After a few days, you start to build up a unbroken chain of red Xs, which is a very satisfying feeling. After that, your only job is to not break the chain.
This strategy isn’t concerned with the results themselves, it’s simply about building a consistent habit. Once you do that, the results will come. (Also, it’s important to pick a task that is significant enough to make a difference but small enough that you can do it every day.)
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